5 Facts About School Shootings and Video Games the NRA Needs to Look At
So, by now you've undoubtedly seen the statement from the National Rifle Association regarding the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn. In it, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre suggested armed guards at the entrance of every school would ensure the safety of schoolchildren. He also managed to blame pop culture, including music videos and video games.
I can see how something like Is Tropical's "The Greeks" might appeal to a mass murderer, but let's be honest. Music videos aren't influencing anyone much anymore. It's still an amazing art form, but their reach to the general public is tiny now compared to the MTV heyday.
So let's turn to video games. They're an old scapegoat ever since Sub-Zero started ripping off heads with spines still attached in Mortal Kombat. The effect of playing such games on young minds has been the subject of much debate, and much more nonsense. Today I thought I'd share some statistics that groups like the NRA who are looking to assign blame to my favorite, non-Doctor Who hobby might want to look at.
Adam Lanza Mostly Played a Non-Violent Game
Though headlines trumpeted titles like Call of Duty when talking about his gaming, Lanza's main pastime was playing StarCraft. StarCraft is a science fiction real-time military campaign simulator, and while that sounds like some serious dogs of war stuff the reality of it is that it is basically a high tech version of Stratego.
The game isn't particularly violent. Oh sure, you kill things, but even Mario kills things. The expansion pack that Lanza was probably playing, Brood War to judge by the fact that reports of him playing it go back to around 2008, is rated T for Teen. In other words, it was deemed probably appropriate for players aged 13 and up.
StarCraft Is Huge in a Country With Zero School Shootings
Well, even though it isn't violent StarCraft is still about military campaigns in a technologically advanced in semi-realistic manner. It's probably still an influence, right?
Let me tell you about South Korea. In South Korea StarCraft is so popular that it has actually become a professional sport that even has groupies. It's really, really big there. Despite that, when you bring up a list of school shootings South Korea doesn't appear at all. What that means is that in a country where StarCraft is bigger than soccer is here, more people have actually died from exhaustion playing the game than have been driven to murder by it.
South Korea, by the by, is no. 149 on the list of guns-per-capita. That's 28th from the bottom.
And Columbine Was Not Planned Using Doom Either
One of the more ridiculous rumors that came out of the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Co in 1999 was that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had planned their murder of 13 people using custom-designed levels in the first person shooter Doom that were supposed to match the layout of their school. Some even said that characters meant to resemble specific classmates were included as targets.
Being four days short of the same age as Eric Harris, it's not surprising that he was into Doom. Hell, I first played it on a school computer in the audio/visual room of Galena Park High. And yes, he did in fact design some custom levels as thousands of other kids were eagerly doing. You can also clearly see from videos online that you would need a healthy dose of LCD to even begin to see them as a dress rehearsal for what ultimately happened. If you don't believe me, here's Snopes on the subject.
In The Aftermath of the Most Violent Video Game Ever, School Shootings Did Not Increase
What's the most violent video game ever? Mortal Kombat? God of War? Nope, it's an 8-bit shooter from 1986 named Chiller. It was a horrific endeavor that involved shooting people in torture dungeons until they died piece by piece. To this day, it's the most grisly thing I've ever played, and it was in arcades. How does 1986 look in school shootings?
1. Matt Cooper shoots himself in class at Boyet Junior High School in Slidell, Louisiana. 2. Two people in their forties hold Cokeville Elementary School in Cokevill, Wyoming hold over a hundred students hostages and managed to blow themselves up with their own bomb. 3. Kristofor Hans kills a substitute teacher, and then is handed over to the police by his parents.
Even for the rest of the '80s school shootings attributed to just ten non-suicide fatalities. More students were killed in the same time period before the release of Chiller. Not that this information actually means anything because...
Violent Video Games Do Not Cause School Shootings
Here's the first thing to realize. The most violent video games out there are rated M for Mature for a reason. They are designed for adults to consume, and in fact it's been put forward that people playing violent video games actually get a benefit from doing so. A study done by Texas A&M International University's Associate Professor, Christopher Ferguson said...
Unfortunately, most correlational studies fail to take account of potentially confounding 'third' variables such as personality, family violence, or genetics. A few do, and consistently find that the link between video game violence and aggression is greatly weakened by the inclusion of 'third' variables. For instance, Ferguson et al. (2008a) find that family violence exposure, not video game violence, is predictive of violent criminal acts.
This, after railing against an earlier study that tried to find a connection between violent Western pop culture somehow influencing 9/11. The study goes on to look at the fact that in the cases where school shooters survived their own rampage to be interviewed on the subject it was clear that they seemed "more interested in the violent images than the game itself."
Man, it's almost as if people that go on violent massacres were inclined to seek out violent medium rather than be inspired by it.
Look, I'm the person that said I thought Hitman: Absolution was turning me into a morally bankrupt sinkhole of a man. I understand the fear of such games and what they might turn out children into. That being said, I'll paraphrase John Waters when I say, "You can't commit a crime playing a game."
Is this too violent a culture? That's a legitimate question... just as legitimate as asking if there are too many guns in America. I for one am perfectly willing to have the conversation on the subject if the NRA is willing to have the conversation about how many firearms are out there available. We could blame each other, or we could work together. It's that simple.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events